It’s rare to find a rapper willing to truly bare his soul for his music. On his debut record, Barely Hangin’ On: The Chronicles of a Brotha Like Rodney King (Urban Umpire Records), the LA emcee Amad-Jamal reveals his most intimate thoughts about the life-alerting events that led to the making if his debut album. Guest appearances on the LP include Dilated Peoples, Defari, Mayya Lady Dragon, and Gotham Green. Production is shared by Brisk One and DJ Dahi.
Barely Hang’ On’s jazz infused beats and live instrumentation make it unlike any other recent hip-hop record to date. In fact, the album was completely remixed after it was finished. Amad-Jamal and his partna Colonious Funk (of The Solution) added live base, drums and sound to all 13 tracks.
Because of the remix, the record was delayed for almost a year, but Jamal hopes listeners will find the album worth the wait. On “Boy Meets Girl,” Jamal laughs at himself and the irony of lost love, while offering the message that pain is about progress and that all experiences—good and bad—open your mind to new truths. “Stop Fuckin’ Around” is an ode to the emcee’s mother, where he recalls her often futile warnings against tagging buses and cruising the Crenshaw strip. On “Going Postal” Amad-Jamal recalls his frustration with his day job as a mortgage lender.
Amad-Jamal has been around Los Angeles music scene since the late ‘90s. In 1999 he formed with the group The Solution with Salt Lake City producer Brisk One, Colonious Funk (base), Kurt Fagan (drums), DJ Kai Wing, Nongenetic (MC) and vocals by Maaya Ota aka Lady Dragon. In 2000, he met ABB Records’ Beni B. and, with Rakaa Evidence, and Defari released the maxi-single “The Renaissance.” Later he released “LA City” with Evidence. Jamal was featured on ABB’s “Always Bigger & Better” Volume 1 where he recorded “What I Need” with DJ Khalil (of Self Scientific).
In 2003, Amad-Jamal was the only West Coast artist booked for the Rock Steady Tour and has performed live and toured with the industry greats including the Beat Junkies, RZA, Defari, Talib Kweli, Cali Agents, Prince Po, KRS-ONE, Myka 9, Dilated Peoples, Freestyle Fellowship, Mr. Fab, Zion I, Prince Paul, Saul Williams, Mos Def, Wu-Tang Clan, Eminem, Q-Tip, Little Brother, and Bahamadia.
Born and raised in LA, Amad-Jamal, named by his mother after the famous Jazz legend, had a pretty typical upbringing, listening to N.W.A records and free styling at The Good Life Café as a teen. He attended John Burrows Jr High with Rakaa Iriscience where they were both immersed in the graffiti scene.
“There must have been something in the water at my college,” quips Amad-Jamal who attended Clark Atlanta University with the likes of Lil’ John, Arrested Development’s Speech, and Saul Williams.
A distinctly Los Angeles record, Barely Hangin’ On harkens back to an earlier time in hip-hop (both sonically and topically) while simultaneously being an entirely modern album.